Hoaxes and fake news around the novel coronavirus continue to spread on social media as South Africans ready themselves for government’s 21-day lockdown, which commences at 23.59pm on Thursday.
On Wednesday, ministers briefed the media to give clarity on what is allowed and not allowed during the lockdown, and to explain how basic services will function.
News sites have also been providing an ongoing FAQ feed to address questions that members of the public have about the lockdown.
Yet, WhatsApp groups and other social media are inundated with false information and fear mongering.
One such is that members of the public must fill in a permit before they will be permitted to visit shops, pharmacies or for “physical activity”, among other “reasons” for leaving their homes.
This document is fake, and it is not a requirement to leave your home to acquire basic goods, Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson of the Government Communication and Information System, confirmed to News24.
While Police Minister Bheki Cele warned of consequences for those who attempt to leave their homes – unless for essential purposes, such as buying groceries, seeking medical attention, collecting grants, buying medication, or emergencies – a permit to do so is not required.
Pets and hand sanitiser
A Facebook post claiming that hand sanitiser is harmful to pets is equally fake. “Please do not pet your dog or any pet after using hand sanitiser. It contains ethanol glycol that’s also found in anti-freeze that’s toxic to them! (sic)” the post claims.
Africa Check has dismissed this.
“Hand sanitiser does not contain ethylene glycol. Most sanitisers contain a form of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol, as a form of antiseptic, says the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Britannica explains that ethyl alcohol, known mainly as ethanol, is well known as the ingredient of many alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits.
“Ingesting large quantities of hand sanitiser could have an effect on pets, but a lick of hand sanitiser won’t hurt a child or anyone else,” Africa Check writes on its website.
Africa Check also debunked a social media post that states the new coronavirus can be cured by gargling salt or vinegar water. The post says that before the coronavirus reaches the lungs, it remains in the throat for four days. At this stage, the virus can be “eliminated” by gargling with warm water and salt or vinegar.
But the advice is false, Africa Check confirmed.